Here we see the aircrew of “Waddy’s Wagon,” a B-29 Superfortress from the 20th Air Force, 73rd Bomb Wing, 497th Bomb Group, 869th Bomb Squadron. They were enjoying a lighthearted moment posing to duplicate the nose art of their aircraft. Unfortunately, all of these young men were killed in action when their aircraft was shot down over Japan in January of 1945.
Pilot Captain Walter R. Young, O-382584 (MIA / KIA) Ponca City, OK
Co-Pilot 2nd Lt. Robert M. Phillips, O-806901 (MIA / KIA) TN
Navigator 2nd Lt. Paul R. Garrison, Jr., O-698695 (MIA / KIA) Lancaster, PA
Bombardier 2nd Lt. John F. Ellis, O-685457 (MIA / KIA) Moberly, MO
Engineer 2nd Lt. Bernard S. Black, O-866285 (MIA / KIA) Woodhaven, NY
CFC SSgt Lawrence L. Lee, 37252164 (MIA / KIA) Max, ND
Radio SSgt George E. Avon, 32935478 (MIA / KIA) Syracuse, NY
Left Gunner Sgt Corbett L. Carnegie, 12214591 (MIA / KIA) Grindstone Island, NY
Right Gunner Sgt Wilbur J. Chapman, 38606304 (MIA / KIA) Panhandle, TX
Tail Gunner SSgt Joseph J. Gatto, 12024315 (MIA / KIA) Falconer, NY
Radar SSgt Kenneth N. Mansir, 11097819 (MIA / KIA) Randolph, ME
Standing Tall in the Rear Escape Hatch
On January 9, 1945, Captain Walter R. Young piloted a B-29 from Isley Field, Saipan, as part of the 73rd Bomb Wing’s 18th mission, targeting the Nakajima Musashino Aircraft Factory near Tokyo. A total of 72 B-29s participated in this operation. However, the mission faced challenges from the start, as strong winds in the jet stream scattered the formation, causing the bombers to arrive in three separate waves.
As the bombers approached their target, they were ambushed by fighters from the Japanese Army Air Force’s 47th Sentai based at Narimasu Airfield and Ki-61 Tonys from the 244th Sentai. These intercepting fighters resorted to desperate measures, deliberately ramming into the B-29s. Additionally, Imperial Japanese Navy J1N1 Irvings from the 302nd Air Group joined the attack, claiming to have downed one bomber without any losses.